Guyana anxious, but will not badger UN chief

- Greenidge on next step for resolution of border controversy with Venezuela

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By Devina Samaroo

Guyana is yet to receive word from the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Gutierrez on whether he will refer the border controversy with Venezuela to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge Wednesday, 17 January 2018, said that the Secretary-General understands how anxious Guyana is to resolve the issue.

“The Secretary-General undertook to give his decision after a process which ended on December 31, 2017. It is possible that he could take two years to answer but given the circumstances in which he was invited to carry out his mandate under the 1966 Geneva Agreement, we are pretty sure that the Secretary-General is aware of the urgency of the matter…,” Greenidge stated.

Greenidge said in those circumstances, the Secretary-General should know how important it is for a decision to be handed down in a timely manner.

The Foreign Affairs Minister also noted that the Guyana Government made this point pellucid during its discussions with the Secretary General’s Personal Representative, Dag Nylander.

“So he is aware of that and I don’t think we have to beat him over the head every week to tell him that we are waiting,” Greenidge stated.

In mid-February last year, Secretary-General António Guterres appointed Dag Halvor Nylander of Norway as his Personal Representative on the Border Controversy, saying efforts at mediation would continue until the end of 2017.

He said then that if by the end of 2017 no significant progress is made in arriving at a full agreement for the solution of the controversy, he will choose the International Court of Justice as the next means of settlement unless the Governments of Guyana and Venezuela jointly request that he refrain from doing so.

There have been a series of meetings between Nylander and representatives of the governments of Guyana and Venezuela since then, with an “enhanced mediation mandate” given to Nylander under the Good Officer process.

By the Geneva Agreement of February 17, 1966, Guyana and Venezuela allowed for the UN Secretary-General to determine a resolution to the controversy which arose after Venezuelan contented that the Arbitral Award of 1899 which settled the country’s border was null and void.

Guyana is adamant that the 1899 Tribunal provided “a full, perfect and final settlement” but Venezuela denounced the Arbitral Award in 1962 at the Decolonisation Committee of the UN General Assembly as British Guiana sought Independence.

Guyana has accused Venezuela of a series of acts of aggression, starting with a Presidential decree of June 1968.  The border controversy flared again in early 2015 when American firm Exxon Mobil announced that it had made a “significant” oil discovery.

After threatening the company, the Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro issued a decree on May 26, 2015, seeking to extend Venezuela’s land claim to also annex the country’s maritime space. Four years ago, Venezuela sent a naval ship into Guyanese waters and seized a U.S.-chartered oil survey ship and escorted it to Margarita Island.

In September 2015, Guyanese authorities also said the Venezuela army was up the Cuyuni River. In October, Canadian-based mining company Guyana Goldfields said it had received an “unfounded” notification of possible legal action by Venezuela over its operations in Guyana.

Guyana has set aside US$15 million of a signing bonus with ExxonMobil and its partners to pay legal fees to defend Guyana’s case if the matter is referred to the ICJ.

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